SINGAPORE - The first exports of rice grown in Fukushima prefecture since the 2011 nuclear disaster will make their way to Singapore this week, according to Japanese officials.
The National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (Zen-Noh), a major wholesaler of Japanese agricultural products, said it will send 300kg of the grain here, where it has an office.
The provenance of the rice will be marked and it will not be mixed with other produce, an AFP report quoted an unnamed official as saying. He added that the rice was grown some 60km to 80km west of the nuclear plant that melted down three years ago, after being hit by a tsunami.
Following the disaster, several countries, including Singapore, placed restrictions on food and produce from Japan.
In late May this year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that Singapore will immediately lift its ban on some Fukushima food imports.
The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) said then that the food and produce from Fukushima allowed here included fruits, vegetables, milk products and rice. But the first imports of rice are reportedly set to arrive here this week and will go on sale on Friday, some three months after the ban was lifted.
"Despite our efforts at explaining the safety of Fukushima-made farm products, up until now we have not been able to find retailers who wished to trade rice grown in Fukushima," said Zen-Noh in the AFP report.
"From now on, we aim to export more Fukushima rice, including to Singapore."
When queried about the food safety of the rice, AVA referred The Straits Times to a July advisory in which it assured the public that food allowed here is safe for consumption. Since January last year, AVA has not detected any radioactive contaminants in food from Japan, read the advisory.
The Japanese authorities also have to show that the products are free from radioactive contaminants before exporting them here.
Demand for Japanese rice has risen over the years, with about 1,000 tonnes imported last year, up from some 700 tonnes the year before. Import data here is not broken down by Japanese prefecture.This rising demand, said rice importers who spoke to The Straits Times, is partly due to the dipping prices as Japan struggles with international contamination of its agricultural brand.
But they noted that consumers here remain wary. Said Mr Sato Yuichi, who runs wholesaler Tawaraya: "I'm sure that as AVA has said it's okay, it's very safe to import, but it's very hard to sell and, even with the ban lifted, we are not buying rice from Fukushima."
This article was first published on MONTH DAY, 2014.
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